HELP!!! In-laws gone wild just in time for the holidays...

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Looking for some advice and really just to vent a bit about a pretty significant in-law issue. To give some a little background, my in-laws live about an hour away in a very rural area, and our daughter is really the only grandchild with whom they have any contact, so we go out of our way to make sure she sees them regularly. About 4 months ago, when we were visiting them, my outspoken FIL made a comment to our 6 year old daughter that she’d gotten very ‘fat’ and went on and on about how ‘fat’ she was. Our daughter, who had no idea she was remotely overweight until he called it to her attention, burst into tears and was emotional and weepy for about a week afterward. Even now, she’ll ask is something is ‘healthy’ or not before she eats it, and wants to know if something she eats is ‘fattening’.
Understandably, my husband and I were both very upset and left their house hastily that afternoon. My husband made a private call to his Dad later that night and really lost his temper with him, using the ‘f’ word a few times, which is extremely out of character for him, as he nearly never curses. A week went by, and then a letter from my FIL showed up in the mailbox, which I assumed to be a heartfelt apology for the whole incident. However, the letter was actually a diatribe against my husband for being so ‘disrespectful’ on the phone and using the ‘f’ word with his own father, and then he emphasized that while the word ‘fat’ may have been a slip of the tongue, it was true and even the pediatrician had spoken to us about her weight, so what was the big deal? I admit it, I lost my temper a bit and hastily wrote an angry letter back to him, telling him that while it was true that the pediatrician had spoken to us about our daughter’s weight, she had done so privately and in response to my own concerns, and that we certainly never discussed any of it in front of my daughter. I went on to say that after putting up with over 10 years of his misogynistic, racist, bigoted and cruel remarks, I was at my wit’s end with him and would consider not having my daughter around him at all anymore. I added that since he was so appalled by the fact I am an atheist, maybe he should take a better look at what it means to have some Christian values and start paying attention to the filth that comes out of his own mouth. Before sending it, I showed it to my husband and asked if we was okay with what I had written, and he replied: “This is absolutely perfect, and it says everything I’ve always wanted to tell him myself but couldn’t find the words to do so.” So, we signed it from the two of us, and sent it in the mail.
Anyway, my mother-in-law contacted us the other day in tears, accusing me of completely overreacting to the ‘fat’ comment, which she claims was not a big deal and something which is not affecting our child at all. She said that I am a big bully and a despicable human being for writing that letter, and that I am picking on an ‘old man’ who ‘means well but who will never change and is allowed to make mistakes’, and that I’ve ruined Christmas for their whole family by saying such deplorable things. I explained to her that the letter is not only from me, but from her son as well- but she conveniently didn’t seem to hear that part. She said that my FIL doesn’t want to see either of us ever again, and that she can’t believe we’d say such hurtful things or be so cruel. She made it very clear that she believes it’s all my doing, and that my being an atheist is obviously what makes me such a sick, twisted individual.
So, here we are with only a few weeks to Christmas to go, and normally they come and stay at our house for a few days. Sadly, I am actually sort of relieved (and not feeling as stressed as I normally would right now) at the thought of NOT having to see them this year. I think my husband is relieved to not have to see his Dad (with whom he’s never seen eye to eye) but I sense that he’s upset about the episode with his mother, and that he never saw that reaction coming from her. She’s always been his biggest champion, and up until that phone call she sided with us about her husband’s comments being unacceptable and upsetting. I don’t know what to do, because I feel like I’ve already done enough harm by writing the letter- but at the same time- I don’t regret writing that letter because all of it was long overdue. Having them around for various occasions has always added undue stress (particularly for my husband) but they are still his parents, and they are still my daughter’s grandparents. Part of me wants to break loose from them altogether (and they’re not making it any easier to resist that…) and part of me feels terrible for causing all of this upheaval with that letter.

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  1. Whoever's Avatar
    Don't let the ILs stay at your home ever again. This is your DD's home, her sanctuary. To allow the ILs to stay at your home would be telling DD she doesn't matter as you are inviting her bullies into her safe place.

    Stop chasing these bullies. There is a reason besides distance that the other grandchildren never see them.

  2. BlueBird's Avatar
    Sounds like grandparents don't care about their granddaughter's feelings. Maybe you should put them in time out. If they're concerned about DD weight they can talk to you about it, not tease the poor little girl. I say that you, DH, and DD should have a nice family holiday without them this year. Don't let them ruin your Christmas.

    And on a side note about DD, maybe now is a good time to start teaching her some good nutritional habits. A six year old shouldn't be worried about her weight and asking if food is fattening. Eating disorders can start at a very early age, so make sure she knows the difference between being skinny and being healthy.
  3. EvilEvilDIL's Avatar
    They have no special rights as grandparents. They were destructive bullies to your daughter. You are all better off without them. Your stress reduction, is telling you something really important. Imagine your daughter having the same stress, but as a child being far less able to cope with it.

    Have a wonderful holiday season without mean and destructive people in it.
  4. Wildwitch's Avatar
    Yes, they are her grandparents. But that brings no special treatment when they are nasty. Think, would you want her having contact with people who talk to her like that if they weren't related? Of course not. Sharing some DNA does not make them people you want around your child.
    Your DH is naturally upset about his mother, but he is supporting his daughter, which is the absolutely right thing to do. Leave things with them alone. They will most likely try to initiate contact with you, but make sure it is on your terms. In a public place, without your daughter.
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